Barcelona (AFP) - The head of the Catholic Church in Spain has criticised a declaration of independence approved by Catalonia's regional parliament last month, calling it "serious and disturbing", a spokesman said Monday.
Cardinal Ricardo Blazquez Perez, the president of the Spanish bishops' conference, delivered the message at a gathering of clergy from across Spain in Madrid last week, the conference's spokesman Jose Maria Gil Tamayo told journalists.
"Regarding the situation in Catalonia, the cardinal said, and I quote him verbatim, that the declaration of independence is a serious and disturbing fact for our coexistence, that goes beyond discrepancies between political formations," he said.
"We support the reestablishment of constitutional order," he added, a month after Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's conservative government took direct control of Catalonia and dismissed its defiant separatist government in a bid to block its independence drive.
The Madrid government took the unprecedented steps just hours after Catalonia's regional parliament on October 27 approved a motion declaring independence for the wealthy northeastern region which is home to 7.5 million people.
Catalonia's ousted president and four other regional ministers then fled to Belgium while the remaining members of the Catalan government are in jail in Spain, charged with rebellion and sedition.
Bishops and priests should favour "peaceful coexistence" and "renounce concrete political actions that could diminish their mission which consists in being pastors for all", Gil Tamayo said.
In recent years the influential Abbot of the Benedictine Abbey of Montserrat in Catalonia, Josep Maria Soler, has spoken out in favour of the region's right to hold an independence referendum although he stops short of backing secession.
Over 400 Catalan priests and deacons signed a manifesto in favour of a banned independence referendum which was held on October 1 in defiance of Spain's central government and the courts.
Rajoy's government complained to the Vatican, according to Spanish media reports.